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Re: lenny+1 and the future of the alpha port?

On Thu, Aug 21, 2008 at 10:36:22PM -0700, Steve Langasek wrote:
> With lenny just around the corner, I think it's time to start thinking about
> the future of the Debian alpha port for lenny+1 and beyond.

This day was coming.  When an architecture is no longer being manufactured, it's
difficult to justify continued support for it.  I'll caveat my remarks by
cautioning the reader that I have an unreasonable fondness for antiques.  The
menagerie on my home network includes an AT&T 3B2/310, a DEC Alpha 433au, and
an AMD K6III/450 among other machines.  The K6III/450 has been my main workhorse
for the past several years, going back to the turn of the century.  It and the
Alpha run 24x7x365.  The Alpha is my IPv6 gateway router/firewall.

> (The alpha is) also by far the loudest machine in the house and dissipates
> the most heat.

I can see that for many of the other alpha models I've seen, but in my case,
the 433au is actually one of the quieter machines I own :-).  For those who
don't know, the 433au is a mid-tower form factor system typically containing
a maximum of two half-height SCSI drives.  The drives can be noisy, but that
depends greatly on the make and model: mine are actually of fairly recent
vintage because the stock drive size left me with too little disk space to do
anything useful with the machine.  Turning off the machine actually wouldn't
make all that much of a difference in my electric bill.

> Are there other developers still actively using alpha who are willing to do
> the work to maintain it?  Or perhaps a more important question:  does anyone
> foresee themselves still using alpha three years from now (1.5 years of
> lenny as stable, + 1 year of security support as oldstable)?

I'll continue to lurk in the background as a "daily driver", but as such, testing
the installer is a task I'd prefer to leave to someone else unless/until I get
another machine to dedicate to that task.  On the other hand, I'm more than
willing to test other things that won't require reinstalling the OS.  I recently
upgraded the Alpha from etch to lenny (feedback available if anyone is interested)
so I could build firefox 3 from source (newer than etch gnome libraries required).
I also usually build/run the latest -rcX kernel.org kernels on my Alpha.

> If not, I think it's time to look at retiring the alpha port gracefully as a
> release architecture.  Alpha has had a long, proud run in Debian, but if
> alpha/lenny+1 isn't actually going to be useful to anyone, and no one is
> really maintaining it (we've been mostly coasting for lenny already on the
> porting front), it would be better to drop the port now rather than continue
> to take up project resources and become a source of resentment.

I agree with the above thoughts, but will mourn rather than celebrate the
retirement of the alpha port.  Will I still be using my Alpha in three years?
Given my history, the answer is "yes" if the hardware continues to hold up.
Eventually, something will break that can't be replaced economically if at all,
but I don't see that happening until well after people have begun to question my
sanity for sticking with the beast.

Bottom line: I would be grateful for the continued existence of a supported alpha
Linux distribution, but I don't expect it unless a significant number of other
alpha users make themselves known.  Debian was really the only viable option when
I first decided to run Linux on my Alpha several years ago.  Many thanks and much
appreciation to the Debian developers, and Ivan Kokshaysky, for the wonderful
experience this has been.

Bob Tracy          |  "I was a beta tester for dirt.  They never did
rct@frus.com       |   get all the bugs out." - Steve McGrew on /.

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